Kayaks seem to have originated in Greenland, where they were used by Eskimos, primarily for hunting, fishing and transport. Canoes however were used around the world for transport and trade. Canoe-kayak sports competitions began to be seen in the middle of the 19th century. The London Royal Canoe Club, founded in 1866, was the first organisation to focus on developing this sport. In the 1890s, canoeing and kayaking were popular throughout Europe.
Brief overview of the rules
The canoe-kayak events include two very different disciplines that are both part of the Olympic programme: Canoe-kayak sprint and canoe-kayak slalom. Each discipline refers to two different types of boats: kayaks and canoes. Kayakers are seated and use a double-bladed paddle, whereas canoers kneel in their boat and use a single-blade paddle.
The canoe-kayak slalom competitions will be held at the new whitewater stadium. Slalom competitions are a timed race on a course with up to 25 gates to be navigated through. Touching a gate adds a two second penalty to the race time, while missing a gate results in a penalty of 50 seconds, making it impossible for athletes to achieve a good result.
Canoe slalom made its debut at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich and became a permanent Olympic fixture at the 1992 Games in Barcelona. Athletes from European nations have achieved great success at the Games, winning roughly 90 per cent of all canoe slalom medals in Olympic history. For instance, Europe missed out on a mere three men’s medals between the Atlanta 1996 Olympics and the Rio 2016 Games.
In Paris, a new slalom competition format will be introduced, with the kayak cross events (men’s and women’s). As with ski cross or snowboard cross, four athletes will set off together from a start ramp, racing down a course marked out with 10 gates or obstacles requiring manoeuvres such as kayak rails. The first two athletes to cross the finish line without missing a gate will go through to the next round.
Events in 2024
Canoe slalom events will take place between the 27th of July and the 5th of August.
- Kayak (women’s / men’s)
- Canoe Single (women’s / men’s)
- Extreme Canoe Slalom (women’s / men’s)
Venue in 2024
© Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images